Saturday, June 30, 2012

Have You Heard About The 16 Trillion Dollar Bailout?

What you are about to read should absolutely astound you.  During the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve secretly conducted the biggest bailout in the history of the world, and the Fed fought in court for several years to keep it a secret.  Do you remember the TARP bailout?  The American people were absolutely outraged that the federal government spent 700 billion dollars bailing out the "too big to fail" banks.  Well, that bailout was pocket change compared to what the Federal Reserve did.  As you will see documented below, the Federal Reserve actually handed more than 16 trillion dollars in nearly interest-free money to the "too big to fail" banks between 2007 and 2010.  So have you heard about this on the nightly news?  Probably not.  Lately Bloomberg has been reporting on some of this, but even they are not giving people the whole picture.  The American people need to be told about this 16 trillion dollar bailout, because it is a perfect example of why the Federal Reserve needs to be shut down.  The Federal Reserve has been actively picking "winners" and "losers" in the financial system, and it turns out that the "friends" of the Fed always get bailed out and always end up among the "winners".  This is not how a free market system is supposed to work.

According to the limited GAO audit of the Federal Reserve that was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the grand total of all the secret bailouts conducted by the Federal Reserve during the last financial crisis comes to a whopping $16.1 trillion.

That is an astonishing amount of money.

Keep in mind that the GDP of the United States for the entire year of 2010 was only 14.58 trillion dollars.

The total U.S. national debt is only a bit above 15 trillion dollars right now.

So 16 trillion dollars is an almost inconceivable amount of money.

But some other dollar figures have been thrown around lately regarding these secret Federal Reserve bailouts.  Let's take a look at them and see what they mean.

$1.2 Trillion

A recent Bloomberg article made the following statement….

The $1.2 trillion peak on Dec. 5, 2008 — the combined outstanding balance under the seven programs tallied by Bloomberg — was almost three times the size of the U.S. federal budget deficit that year and more than the total earnings of all federally insured banks in the U.S. for the decade through 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The $1.2 trillion figure represents the peak outstanding balance on these loans, not the total amount of all the loans.  On December 5, 2008 the "too big to fail" banks owed this much money to the Federal Reserve.  Many of them could not pay these short-term loans back right away and had to keep rolling them over time after time.  Each time a short-term loan got rolled over that represented a new loan.

$7.7 Trillion

Bloomberg is reporting that the Federal Reserve had made a total of $7.77 trillion in financial commitments to the big banks by the end of March 2009….

Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

But as mentioned above, a one-time limited GAO audit of the Federal Reserve that was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act covered an even broader time period and revealed even more bailout loans.

According to the GAO audit, $16.1 trillion in secret loans were made by the Federal Reserve between December 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010.  The following list of firms and the amount of money that they received was taken directly frompage 131 of the GAO audit report….

Citigroup - $2.513 trillion
Morgan Stanley - $2.041 trillion
Merrill Lynch - $1.949 trillion
Bank of America - $1.344 trillion
Barclays PLC - $868 billion
Bear Sterns - $853 billion
Goldman Sachs - $814 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland - $541 billion
JP Morgan Chase - $391 billion
Deutsche Bank - $354 billion
UBS - $287 billion
Credit Suisse - $262 billion
Lehman Brothers - $183 billion
Bank of Scotland - $181 billion
BNP Paribas - $175 billion
Wells Fargo - $159 billion
Dexia - $159 billion
Wachovia - $142 billion
Dresdner Bank - $135 billion
Societe Generale - $124 billion
"All Other Borrowers" - $2.639 trillion

This report was made available to all the members of Congress, but most of them have been totally silent about it.  One of the only members of Congress that has said something has been U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

The following is an excerpt from a statement about this audit that was takenfrom the official website of Senator Sanders….

"As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world"

So where is everyone else?

Why aren't leading Republicans and leading Democrats crying bloody murder over this report?

This scandal should have been front page news for months when it was revealed.

But it wasn't.

And Guess what?

Not only did the Federal Reserve give 16.1 trillion dollars in nearly interest-free loans to the "too big to fail" banks, the Fed also paid them over 600 million dollars to help run the emergency lending program.  According to the GAO, the Federal Reserve shelled out an astounding $659.4 million in "fees" to the very financial institutions which caused the financial crisis in the first place.

In addition, it turns out that trillions of dollars of this bailout money actually went overseas.  According to the GAO audit, approximately $3.08 trillion went to foreign banks in Europe and in Asia.

So why were our dollars being used to bail out foreign banks while tens of millions of American families were deeply suffering?

That is a very good question.

Also, it is important to remember that many of these bailout loans were made at below market interest rates, and this enabled many of these financial institutions to rake in huge profits.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, the big banks brought in an estimated $13 billion by taking advantage of the Fed's below-market rates….

While the Fed's last-resort lending programs generally charge above-market interest rates to deter routine borrowing, that practice sometimes flipped during the crisis. On Oct. 20, 2008, for example, the central bank agreed to make $113.3 billion of 28-day loans through its Term Auction Facility at a rate of 1.1 percent, according to a press release at the time.

The rate was less than a third of the 3.8 percent that banks were charging each other to make one-month loans on that day. Bank of America and Wachovia Corp. each got $15 billion of the 1.1 percent TAF loans, followed by Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS Citizens NA unit with $10 billion, Fed data show.

So once the financial crisis was over, were adjustments made to the financial system to make sure that this type of thing would never happen again?

Of course not.

Today, the "too big to fail" banks are larger than ever.  The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

So now they are more "too big to fail" than ever.

But this is what happens when we allow unelected central bank bureaucrats to run our financial system.

Most Americans do not realize this, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve is not part of the government.  In fact, it is about as "federal" as Federal Express is.  The Federal Reserve has admitted that they are a privately owned institution in court many times, and you can see video of a Federal Reserve employee admitting that the Federal Reserve is privately owned right here.

The Federal Reserve is an out of control monster that is throwing around trillions of dollars whenever it wants to.  Nobody should be allowed to do this.  Nobody should be allowed to give bailouts to banks and corporations without the express permission of the U.S. Congress and the president of the United States.

This is a point that I made in my article yesterday.  The Federal Reserve decided this week that it is going to provide "liquidity support" to Europe.  If the American people do not like this move, that is just too bad.  We do not get a say in the matter.

Are you starting to understand why I keep pushing the idea that it is time to shut down the Federal Reserve?

Please share this information about the secret 16 trillion dollar Federal Reserve bailout with your family and your friends.

If we can get enough people to wake up, perhaps there is still time to change the direction that this country is headed.

Thanks to YoloHub


Four Ways To Use Data From Exit Interviews

Despite a common perception that these tools are the final formality before waving goodbye to employees, exit interviews can be powerful retention weapons, said Beth Carvin, CEO of Nobscot Corp., and Laura DiFlorio, director of sales at Nobscot.

Even though an organization may be losing the employee, further talent loss could be prevented if talent managers take the appropriate measures to use information gathered during a thoughtfully executed exit interview.

1. Timing is everything. The first step to an effective exit interview strategy is timing. Often, the best results are achieved when the interview is performed immediately following a worker's two-week notice, according to Corbin and DiFlorio. That way, the employee is still invested enough in the company to put in a good effort. Further, any experiences, anecdotes or thoughts he or she may be harboring are likely still top of mind. "There's some information out there from certain consultants about waiting three months, six months, but that's just wrong," Carvin said. "Not only is it hard to get a hold of them, they've moved on."

2. Don't jump to conclusions. One common mistake Carvin said she sees organizations make is not using an exit interview because they assume they know why a team member is leaving. For example, one of her clients, an insurance company, was positive its high turnover rate in one region was due to one manager with a strong personality. In analyzing the data, however, Nobscot found that employees were dissatisfied that the company had canceled a training program that led to growth opportunities. "That problem was quite solvable," Carvin said. "They were able to reinstitute that program and watch their turnover rate drop."

3. Accentuate the positive. Not all workers who leave a position do so by choice. Sometimes, corporate belts tighten and layoffs are the result. Sometimes, people go through life changes that cause them to leave a job for reasons that have nothing to do with their performance, the company or their satisfaction.

Regardless, the exit interview is useful for every employee who steps out from under a company's umbrella because any feedback he or she provides — even if it's positive — can make a difference. For workers who choose to leave on their own, asking them what they liked about the job can help companies continue popular programs for their current employees or even accentuate those features when seeking future hires.

4. Pick the right delivery method. By giving people options for how they're most comfortable sharing their final input, companies can ensure their exit interview completion rates are high. In-person exit interviews are hardest to get people to open up, and while doing so over the phone was effective in the past, DiFlorio said one company saw participation rates drop to as low as 1 percent. "The company they had hired to do this for them couldn't even generate a report because they had no data," she said.

Jessica Krinke was an editorial intern at Talent Management magazine.

Thanks to Jessica Krinke / TalentMgt / Talent Management Magazine / MediaTec Publishing Inc.

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The Future Of Feedback

As signs of a recovering economy emerge and greener pastures beckon, some talent pundits have predicted the long-awaited improvement will lead to a mass exodus of unhappy employees from jobs they've grudgingly performed for the last few years. Whether or not "The Great Recession" is followed by "The Great Walk-out" remains to be seen, but by updating the way employee feedback is gathered and — more importantly — acted on, companies have a powerful guard against turnover.?

Many of the tried-and-true tools talent managers have been using to gather feedback are still useful, but this is the 21st century. And in this world, the ever-growing reach of technology has left no aspect of life untouched. Employee feedback is no exception, and the following is a guide to the newest tricks and philosophies available to gather, analyze and act on the employee voice.?

Plot the Course

Direct feedback can be useful, but before companies draft lengthy annual questionnaires and create accounts with every social media channel, an overview of basic metrics is imperative. Sometimes, those numbers speak volumes — more so than any comments box. ?

"That is a key thing that we find, over and over again, is missing when it comes time to talk about the macro-level issues around employee dynamics," said Trey Campbell, North American president of human resource services provider NorthgateArinso. Looking at these metrics is essential as an organization's first stop when it comes to gathering feedback, he said.

?"Before we can even move to the higher-end questions of what's motivating them, how happy are they, are they an attrition risk, we have to get the basics down," he said.

Campbell said NorthgateArinso begins its work with a company by first using the core data set from a system of record that all corporations share: payroll. "A foundational building block that we get into very quickly is: 'Do you know where everyone is and what they do?'" Campbell said this question is increasingly difficult for some companies to answer as businesses grow more global.

Using these numbers, the focus moves beyond a simple employee headcount to answer deeper questions. Build a foundation with this data. Provide access to information such as: Exactly how many employees are there in the organization? Where are they located, both within the firm and geographically? How old is the workforce? How much does everyone make? How long has it been since this person was last promoted or had an increase in pay? This should be done before a single employee survey question is written.

By culling these basic metrics, companies can use the resulting data to fill in basic information about their employees, enabling a more effective conversation in the direct feedback step.?

"Then, once you move into the talent management area and you're getting into performance management, where they stack with their peers, you integrate some of this feedback loop into the process through survey instruments, through your ongoing communications cadence around how are they feeling," Campbell said.

He said talent leaders can make use of technology, such as cloud-based storage sharing and social media, "so people can almost on a stream of consciousness basis get their feelings known." Being able to ask these deeper questions in a format that workers are becoming increasingly comfortable with in their personal lives will promote more impactful answers.

Modern Feedback?

The journey to the world of future feedback now has a roadmap in the form of a company's basic metrics. But no quest should be undertaken without the right supplies. Talent managers have some new options when tapping into the cloud-based, social experience that has come to redefine human interaction today.

Consider the Rypple company.

"Did you Rypple that?" is a common phrase in the offices of California-based home solar energy service provider SunRun. Much like today's youth joke that a relationship isn't official until both parties declare it on Facebook, SunRun's Director of Customer Care Tom Asher said the Web-based social feedback tool for businesses has found its way into the company's everyday interactions. Many SunRun employees now consider the recognition process incomplete unless the update is posted to Rypple.

"I'm a strong believer that there's no substitute for face-to-face recognition, but if you're in a bigger company where you're not all sitting in one floor, like we are, it's nice to be able to recognize someone more publicly than just an email to them and their manager," Asher said. While the company still uses traditional feedback tools, such as the annual performance review, social media spaces such as Rypple provide employees with an everyday way to review and recognize each other more informally.?

Asher said SunRun employees also have found the social space Rypple creates is less intrusive than a mass email, but just as public. "Putting it in Rypple allows everyone to be more flexible about what they read and what they see, but still gives the person that's received the recognition the ability to feel like 'Wow, this is posting everywhere; it's on the wall, and everyone can see it if they choose to look at that.'"

That kind of easy, ongoing feedback is exactly the point, said Rypple Co-CEO Daniel Debow. "If you want to gather feedback, you have to do it in ways that are familiar to people; you have to do it in ways that are extremely convenient and in ways that people see that value," he said. "So for our clients, I think that means using well-designed social software tools that are mobile and that encourage access."

While long, yearly surveys still have value, the process of providing and receiving feedback has evolved, Debow said. After all, other businesses don't base their entire strategy around one set of information, so why should talent professionals? By harnessing the power of an internal social media network, managers can now adjust their focus on potential employee-related performance issues or items for celebration as they go. "I think there's a lot more value to much more real-time feedback, both for people as they complete a task or complete a goal, and giving them the power to gather it themselves."

Ready, Set, Implement

The final step to gathering feedback is to put the information and these new tools to work. The implementation phase typically works best when a company's culture promotes openness, honesty and a genuine appreciation for employee input.?

The most important part of gathering feedback is what a business chooses to do with the information once obtained, said Dan Pontefract, senior director of learning and collaboration for Telus, a telecommunications company based in Canada.?

Telus uses a few internal tools to engage employees in feedback, including its own Twitter-like micro-blogging network called Buzz. The company's newest customer-promises program was developed from suggestions the workforce submitted through that technology. These innovations work so well because employees turn to these tools to share with one another both before an idea is finalized and as a recognition tool afterward, Pontefract said.?

If anyone knows what can happen if a firm's culture doesn't support employee needs, it's Beth Carvin, president and CEO of Nobscot Corp., makers of WebExit exit interview software.?

Companies shouldn't embark on the feedback path unless they are prepared to change, Carvin said. Asking for feedback is akin to a genie that can't be put back in the bottle once summoned. Employees will notice if they're repeatedly asked for their opinions and no discernible effort is made to implement any of that information.

"You've got to build that culture up where employees know that you care about feedback, they know that you're listening and they know that this is not just checking off a box of HR processes that you must do, but that senior management cares and listens and will act upon it," she said.

Nobscot has turned away business from companies that wanted to survey their employees too often because they didn't have the right resources in place to support the proper action.

One relatively easy way to reinforce a culture of listening is to let workers know when a change has been made in an organization as the result of a suggestion. "Take credit for it," she said. "[Tell them:] 'We've listened to you and made these changes.'"

While there are new opportunities available to talent leaders when it comes to feedback, it's important that companies have the intention and means to back up what they say with action.?

Jessica Krinke was an editorial intern at Talent Management magazine.

Thanks to Jessica Krinke / TalentMgt / Talent Management Magazine / MediaTec Publishing Inc.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less By Barry Schwartz

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less By Barry Schwartz

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Product Description

In the spirit of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, a social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret. This paperback includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested readings, and more.

Whether we're buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions--both big and small--have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.

We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice--the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish--becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice--from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs--has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.

By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counterintuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on the important ones and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #4435 in Books
  • Published on: 2005-01-18
  • Released on: 2005-01-18
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .76" h x 6.48" w x 8.24" l, .59 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 304 pages
Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Like Thoreau and the band Devo, psychology professor Schwartz provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist. The conclusions Schwartz draws will be familiar to anyone who has flipped through 900 eerily similar channels of cable television only to find that nothing good is on. Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz, drawing extensively on his own work in the social sciences, shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us. We normally assume in America that more options ("easy fit" or "relaxed fit"?) will make us happier, but Schwartz shows the opposite is true, arguing that having all these choices actually goes so far as to erode our psychological well-being. Part research summary, part introductory social sciences tutorial, part self-help guide, this book offers concrete steps on how to reduce stress in decision making. Some will find Schwartz's conclusions too obvious, and others may disagree with his points or find them too repetitive, but to the average lay reader, Schwartz's accessible style and helpful tone is likely to aid the quietly desperate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Who woulda thunk it? Here we are, in the early years of the twenty-first century, being driven bonkers by the staggering array of consumer goods from which we must choose. Choosing something as (seemingly) simple as shampoo can force us to wade through dozens, even hundreds, of brands. We are, the author suggests, overwhelmed by choice, and that's not such a good thing. Schwartz tells us that constantly being asked to make choices, even about the simplest things, forces us to "invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, and dread." There comes a point, he contends, at which choice becomes debilitating rather than liberating. Did I make the right choice? Can I ever make the right choice? It would be easy to write off this book as merely an extended riff on that well-worn phrase "too much of a good thing," but that would be a mistake. Despite a tendency toward highfalutin language ("the counterfactuals we construct can be tilted upward"), Schwartz has plenty of insightful things to say here about the perils of everyday life. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

"Brilliant.... The case Schwartz makes... is compelling, the implications disturbing.... An insightful book." (Christian Science Monitor )

"An insightful study that winningly argues its subtitle." (Philadelphia Inquirer )

"Schwartz lays out a convincing argument.... [He] is a crisp, engaging writer with an excellent sense of pace." (Austin American-Statesman )

"Schwartz offers helpful suggestions of how we can manage our world of overwhelming choices." (St. Petersburg Times )

"Wonderfully readable." (Washington Post )

"Schwartz has plenty of insightful things to say about the perils of everyday life." (Booklist )

"With its clever analysis, buttressed by sage New Yorker cartoons, The Paradox of Choice is persuasive." (BusinessWeek )

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

296 of 313 people found the following review helpful.
5An engaging, lively, thoughtful book!
By Book Lover
This is an eye-opening book -- it brings the clarity and insight into decision-making that The Tipping Point did for trends.

I have seen Barry Schwartz interviewed on TV and listened to a radio interview regarding this book. These interviews focused a lot on decision-making in things like shopping, and how having more choices actually makes shopping harder and makes everyone dislike the process more.

I think "Paradox of Choice" does bring insight into shopping, but its range is actually much wider than that. Schwartz discusses people making difficult decisions about jobs, families, where to live, whether to have children, how to spend recreational time, choosing colleges, etc. He talks about why making these decisions today is much harder than it was 30 years ago, and he offers many practical suggestions for how to address decision-making so that it creates less stress and more happiness. He even discusses how so much additional choice affects children, and how parents can help make childhood (particularly young childhood) less stressful.

There are two other factors about this book that really made it great for me. The first is that Schwartz is a serious academic (although his writing isn't dense in any way at all) -- so he talks about studies that back up his assertions in every facet of his argument. He describes the studies in a very lively way, so that they really come to life, and we can understand how they relate to the issue at hand. And, importantly, we then realize that his discussion is really founded on the latest and most advanced research into decision-making. This is not some self-help guru with a half-baked idea spouting off.

The other thing that I really like about this book is that it has given me a new way to think about our larger society, and what I like and don't like about it. Schwartz has written books before that are expressly critiques of some aspects of America today, and while this book is more focused on the individual, you can't help but come away feeling more thoughtful about the larger effect of these issues on our culture.

I only wish that I had read this book before my latest career change -- it would have saved me a considerable amount of anguish. This is a great book!!

222 of 235 people found the following review helpful.
3If You Choose Not To Peruse, You Still Have Made A Choice
By Connoisseur Rat
Unfortunately, I came to this book a bit late. And even more unfortunately, I read Daniel Gilbert's breezily engaging "Stumbling On Happiness" before taking this one in. I say that because - though I found "The Paradox of Choice" to be a solid and effectively-argued treatise on the very modern problem of consumer inundation - there is an almost-overwhelming amount of overlapping studies from that book to this one.

Need proof? Well, be careful what you wish for! Because I, obsessive nerd that I am, actually kept track. The repeated studies are as follows (and please feel free to skip this paragraph if you haven't read "Stumbling"): the unpleasant noise/colonoscopy "peak end" experiment (pp. 49-50, paperback edition); the college student snack-picking survey (p. 51), the 3rd letter/1st letter demonstration of the availability heuristic (page 58); the $100 coin flip risk assessment analysis (p.65); the $20 concert ticket example of "sunk costs" (pp.70-3); the "experience sampling method" (p.106); trade offs involving new car options (p.124), the picture choosing study (p.138); the lottery/quadriplegic examples of hedonic temperature on p.170. And I could go on (really!), but I think I'll spare you (and me) the trouble.

Suffice it to say, if you read "Stumbling on Happiness," you will find a lot of repeat material here. And you may find that frustrating, as I sometimes did. If you're still interested in the ideas (and solutions) presented in this book, I recommend you pick it up in the library and just read chapters 4 and 11, which for all practical purposes can serve as a condensed version of the entire work.

But even if you haven't read "Stumbling," there's still quite a bit of this book that can be skimmed past without missing too much - especially in the beginning. In chapters one and two, the author goes a little overboard (perhaps intentionally?) in showing us just how easy it is to drown in the sea of choices that can be made in every facet of life.

It all becomes a bit repetitive and recurring and redundant and sometimes makes its points a few too many times over (much like I just did in this very sentence - annoying, isn't it?). I mean, the "jeans story" in the prologue is amusing and easy to relate to, but in Part I of the book ("When We Choose") we have to hear about how many options are involved in (*takes a deep breath*) groceries and gadgets and catalogs and academics and entertainment and utilities and health insurance and retirement plans and medical care and beauty and work and love and worship and identity. (*falls on ground, gasping for air*)

I GET it, Barry! I UNDERSTAND there are too many choices in the world - that's why I bought your gol-danged book! For the impatient readers out there, I would suggest skipping these chapters entirely (but then again, that would entail you having to make another choice, and I don't want to burden you with yet another one - so forget I mentioned it, okay?)

Thankfully, it gets better. Part II ("How We Choose") is decidedly more rewarding (save for the repeat studies mentioned above). On pages 77-8, Schwartz lays out his central construct of "maximizers vs. satisficers": "If you seek and accept only the best, you are a maximizer...The alternative to maximizing is to be a satificer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better."

And until the final chapter, the rest of the book (aka Part III: "Why We Suffer") is spent convincingly (albeit somewhat relentlessly) warning against the energy-draining dangers of "maximizing" and extolling the virtues of "satisficing." (And, let the record show, it is never explained (in my copy, anyway), where the term "satisficing" comes from. I suppose it is an amalgam of "satisfy" and "suffice," but to this reader it seems a little forced, unnecessary and even a bit pretentious - and I usually like dumb wordplay.)

I truly enjoyed the ensuing discussions about concepts such as: the wealth/availability of choices in various nations and how it correlates (or doesn't) to happiness; harnessing the power of second order decisions; how to best deal with opportunity costs (according to standard economic assumptions); the confounding qualities inherent in trade-offs; how counterfactuals can be used for the power of good; and the vagaries of such things as "inaction inertia" and "positional goods."

(And by the way, if the above list sounds a bit dry to your ears... that's because it is. The writing in this book exists on the cusp between the conversational and the academic. It's not quite as engaging or chatty as the prose of other pop-science authors like Leavit or Gladwell or Gilbert, but it's not so dry that you could use it to mop up nasty spills...)

Along the way, a collection of not-very-funny half- to full-page New Yorker comic strip panels appear every 25 pages or so and don't do a heck of a lot to spice up the proceedings. Also, the penultimate chapter on depression seems to come out of nowhere and has little to do with the rest of the book.

But the final chapter (found in Part IV: "What We Can Do") does a nice job of summing up the concepts and suggesting possible coping strategies. Though I struggled at times with the pace and the tone of this book (perhaps because I was spoiled by "Stumbling"), I still think there is enough good stuff in here to merit a perusal.

140 of 163 people found the following review helpful.
5My review of The Paradox of Choice
By Robert G Yokoyama
I enjoyed reading this book very much. Having rules and constraints in society is a good thing and should be embraced. This is an important idea of this book. The Paradox of Choice explains how people arrive at the decisions they do. This book also talks about the negative aspects of making decisions in a world with so many choices. Finally, this book offers suggestions on how to make better choices and reduce stress.

Barry Schwartz makes many good points about decision making. One of them is that because of the growing number of choices we are presented with, we don't always have the time to look at all the information out there to make the best choice. Another interesting point is that people expect certain decisions to be made for them. In the health care field for example, we expect the doctor to tell what kind of treatment we need.

I learned from reading this book that we should all strive to be satisficers rather maximizers. A satisficer is a person who chooses a product or service that is good enough. A maximizer is a person who is always trying to get the best product. A satisficer is usually happy with their choice. In contrast, a maximizer isn't happy and often regrets what they bought.

We should also try to stick our choices and not change our minds. This is another way to reduce anixety I learned in the book. This is very hard to do consistently, but I thought this was a good piece of advice. I also enjoyed the idea of being a chooser and not a picker. Choosers have time to change their goals whereas pickers do not. Choosers take their time making a decision considering all their options unlike pickers who do not.

The Paradox of Choice is an excellent book with a lot of interesting information about the habits people have in making decisions. It also has very useful tips on how to reduce anixety in your life.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tips To Boost Summer Productivity

This week marks the official start of the summer, and as employees kick off their heels in favor of flip-flops, employers are serving up some red-hot benefits.

Three out of four HR managers who responded to a OfficeTeam survey released in June said their companies offered flexible schedules during summer months, and 63 percent of them said employees could opt to leave early on Fridays. Employees who responded to the survey agreed these are their top choices for summer benefits.

"It's very easy for productivity to drop in the summer months because naturally people just want to get out and do things, they have other things on their schedule, it's lighter longer, [etc.]," said Robert Hosking, executive director for staffing service OfficeTeam.

It's only natural for people to want to be more active and even expect some flexibility during the summer months, he said.

Of course, organizations need to do their homework and determine if it's practical before implementing such a policy.

"Some businesses [are] driven around customers or clients where they need to be on call or people need to be available to deal with issues," Hosking said. In such cases, the company may not be in a position to dismiss all workers at noon on Fridays; however, a staggered approach might be the solution.

"Maybe one Friday certain people can take off a little early and the next Friday others can — so it's setting forward a schedule knowing what your limitations are [and making sure] everybody is aware it's fair and equitable," he said.

Either way, offering flexible hours is an easy way to boost morale and may not be the blow to employee productivity business leaders dread.

"It's funny — sometimes you actually get more done in fewer hours because you're working hard to meet a deadline and they can actually get it done in a shorter window of time," he said.

Twenty-eight percent of HR managers say their companies organize activities, such as picnics or potlucks, during the summer months as a way to boost morale for the team.

"If they can't offer flex hours, maybe [they could provide] ice cream sundaes on Fridays or something like that where everybody can take a break from their job and enjoy each other's company," Hosking said.

At the very least, employers can encourage workers to take advantage of their lunch breaks and the vacation time that's due to them.

"If you're a manager or leader in a company, it's great to tell everybody else to take vacation, but if you're staying late every night and don't take it yourself, it's hard for people to believe that they can or feel comfortable doing it themselves," he said.

In addition, most HR managers (57 percent) are offering workers the option to swap out business attire for a more casual look.

Relaxing the dress code, however, can be somewhat of a slippery slope because what people perceive as acceptable or appropriate attire varies greatly, Hosking said. This is a more pronounced challenge for companies with customer-facing employees.

What's key to counter problems before they even arise is to set up and possibly even print a policy that outlines expectations of what's acceptable or not, he said.

Regardless of which summer benefit or benefits organizations choose to order off the menu, doing so isn't merely about giving employers a warm, fuzzy feeling (particularly during the summer!). It can be seen as a wise business decision for several reasons.

"From a retention perspective, there's usually periods of time throughout the year where companies are particularly busy or they have deadlines — whether it's budget period or business plans — so there's an expectation that people put a little more in during those times," Hosking said. "This is like giving a little back to them and saying, 'Thanks for all those other things,' and people do appreciate that."

Offering flexible hours or allowing workers to leave early on Fridays can also decrease absenteeism because employees can cross tasks or outings off their list that they may otherwise take time off to do.

Last — but certainly not least — it can serve as bait for potential candidates during the recruitment process.

"Particularly now as the job market is moving in the right direction ... people have other options — so if you're trying to bring someone into [your] company, it's nice to [be able to] say: 'Here are some of the perks we offer our employees,'" he said.

Deanna Hartley is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine.

Thanks to Deanna Hartley / TalentMgt / Talent Management Magazine / MediaTec Publishing Inc.


Leading Turnarounds: Avoiding Early Mistakes

The stories of Apple and Starbucks inspire many of us, because both of these organizations were once on the ropes, in danger of failing, and have achieved the elusive "turnarounds" to which countless others aspire. They each were brought back from the brink and, more importantly, have since achieved the hallmark of a true turnaround—sustained success.

It's fun watching a turnaround from the outside, but the view is much different on the inside. In fact, one of the most profound challenges any leader will face is the prospect of taking over a failing team or a struggling organization. Even worse is coming to the realization that a team that you have been leading is falling far short of performance goals.  Both scenarios can prove to be a daunting test of leadership capabilities.

Following are three strategies that a leader can use to avoid major pitfalls at the outset of a turnaround:

1. Ignore your Gut: Avoid Immediate Action
A failing team can be fragile. Confidence is down, morale is low, trust can be shaky or nonexistent, and engagement is typically poor. After all, no one wants to be associated with a loser. When a leader comes to terms with this, the knee-jerk reaction is to do something, to do anything! The team must be snapped out of its stupor, and we know immediate action is required to get things back on track.

In most cases, this action-oriented instinct is simply wrong. In fact, it can lead a team further down the rabbit hole. Through our research with successful turnaround artists in professional sport, business, government, and education, one counterintuitive principle kept recurring: when a leader first takes over a failing team, one of the most important things he can do is to ignore his instinct to act.

When leaders quickly act, with the genuine belief that their prescribed actions will address the core problem, two key messages are implicitly sent to the team in rapid succession. First, the team hears that they are not quite as smart as you. After all, you're the one who came in and uncovered the issue that is hindering performance. Shortly thereafter, the team hears that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. After all, the likely changes that you are prescribing relate to them—their composition, processes, values, and work ethic—their core identity. 

If these messages were dropped on anyone, chances are good the message sender would meet resistance. Just as a leader implicitly sends these messages, a team can implicitly argue them in a myriad of creative ways: subtle resistance, reduced engagement, and even sabotage.

2. Adopt a Mindset of Curiosity
We found that the best turnaround artists adopted a mindset of curiosity. They genuinely wanted to understand who the team was, and what had occurred that led them to their current state. They observed daily interactions, asked questions such as, "What are we doing that's stupid?" They attempted to gain a better understanding of the roles that were needed to make the team successful, and compared those roles with the skill sets of the individuals on their team. They tested their employees' understanding of their own roles by asking simple yet powerful questions, such as, "How would you describe your role here?"

Through their exploration, they gathered an immense amount of critical information. They gained insights into the inner workings of the team, elicited ideas from team members as to what internal processes should be kept and what could be changed, noted dysfunctional behaviors, developed an understanding of the different roles that were needed to form a successful team and whether that aligned with the skill sets of the current team members. More importantly, throughout this process these leaders allowed their teams to get to know them and, as a result, build trust. The team gained confidence that the leader really cared about their ideas, their efforts, and their contributions, and the team also had an opportunity to communicate that they didn't want to continue to underperform.

3. Determine What the Team Can Be
The best turnaround artists didn't limit their curiosity to what was wrong with their team. They also explored exactly what their teams could become. For example, after one NFL owner purchased his team, he spent much of the first six months with another successful franchise, learning about the core components of their success and how they built their culture.

Along with learning how others have succeeded, this part of the turnaround process takes intense and purposeful reflection. It's not about simply copying someone else's formula for success. Rather, it's about integrating some outside components into your own formula. And the only way that can happen is if you have a clear idea of what you want your team to be. Yes, this partly comes from observing others, but it also comes from forming and developing your own unique identity, determining what values you want your team to carry on or adopt, and discerning what characteristics you have that can be further exploited.

Some Takeaways:
—Turnarounds don't happen overnight.
—They often don't follow a linear trajectory.
—Leading a turnaround requires persistence, resilience, and a clear understanding of the intended outcome.

Many leaders sabotage their efforts by acting too quickly and losing the very team they intended to rebuild. The three steps outlined above allow a leader to develop a solid foundation for the future actions and discussions that are necessary for a successful turnaround. At the onset of a turnaround, the most effective leaders recognize that they have a distinct opportunity to immerse themselves in both ends of the performance spectrum, learning what is wrong from their own team, and learning how others have gotten it right. Through this, leaders are able to develop a clear understanding of what it is they want their team to be.

About the Author(s):- Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl are coauthors of Team Turnarounds (July, 2012, Jossey-Bass).  Managing partners of Meno Consulting, a firm that specializes in team and leadership development, Frontiera and Leidl are columnists for and blog at My Generation Leader. Each has a Ph.D. in sport psychology from West Virginia University.

Thanks to Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl / AMANET / AMA—American Management Association


Behaviors Of Collaborative Leaders

In order to become a chief catalyst for collaboration, you will have to model behaviors that embody the way you'd like your employees to work. For 150 years, corporations, governments and militaries were built for up-and-down leadership, with incentives and rewards that discouraged cross-organization thinking and, in many cases, actually created or encouraged internal competition. Your challenge is to develop and model the behaviors required to inspire people and teams to genuinely break through organizational silos and make collaboration a competitive advantage.

How you lead your people has a direct impact on your ability to eliminate or mitigate the types of human behaviors that slow organizations down. In our experience, both inside Cisco and with our customers, highly collaborative leaders share four leadership traits. They:

1. Focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness

2. Relentlessly pursue transparent decision making

3. View resources as instruments of action, not as possessions

4. Codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards

Focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness.

For collaboration to succeed, leaders need to be authentic. Cisco studied which characteristics of leaders on collaborative teams are most important, and we found that the most critical attribute was a leader's willingness to follow through on commitments. This involves two elements.

First, as a leader of a team, department or business unit with people, budgets and resources under your control, you must follow through on organizational commitments. Unfortunately, people don't always do what they promise. Passive aggressiveness is a subtle, nuanced form of human behavior in which people find ways to undermine others. They often give tacit agreement in a meeting, for example, but then proceed to take counterproductive action once the meeting is over. Or they might agree to help another team, but then are slow to follow through or put an under-performer on the assignment. Think of how much organizational inertia is created because leaders don't always do what they say they will do.

Expert Tip on Perseverance:

"Leaders need resolve, resilience and determination to affect collaborative transformation. They need to 'walk the talk' for a sustained period of time."
-- Professor Tony O'Driscoll, Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Second, when there is disagreement about a decision­ -- one made by you or someone else -- fight the instinct to make it personal. Ultimately, most disagreements are not personal in nature, but rather result from differing approaches to making a decision. The more you focus on communicating what drives your decision making, the more time you can spend making good decisions instead of arguing a choice with a peer. This leads us to the next leadership trait.

Relentlessly pursue transparent decision making.

Decisions are always about making choices; it's critical that you are clear about how you make them. Tell people your style and thought process for navigating tricky, or even every day, decisions. In our experience, and this is backed up by research, there's a direct relationship between the agility and resilience of a team and the transparency of its decision­ making processes. When you're open and transparent about the answers to three questions -- who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real -- people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made. Think of how much time is wasted ferreting out details when a decision is made and communicated because the people who are affected don't know who made the decision or who is accountable for its consequences.

Answer Three Questions to Foster Transparent Decision Making:

Transparent decision making requires that all stakeholders know the answers to these questions:

- Who is making the decision?

- Who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision?

- What are the consequences -- positive or negative -- of that accountability?

In a later chapter, we discuss the importance of establishing a common vocabulary for decision making, especially as a communications platform that can scale an organization's collaborative processes. As a leader, your responsibility is to document the key decision paths of your organization and communicate them to your team as often as you can. There was a time in business when hoarding information was a source of organizational power. Today, the inverse is true if you want to motivate a team that is increasingly mobile, global and socially driven.

Explain the guiding principles of your decision-making style at each stage of your organization's decision paths. Share your biases and tell war stories of how your successes and failures shaped these biases. We often hear the phrase "intelligent risk taking" -- nothing empowers people to take good risks more than understanding the conditions for taking the risk in the first place. Transparent decision making is critical to empowering your people.

View resources as instruments of action, not as possessions.

The promise of flexibility and agility as an organization, inspired by establishing shared goals across organizational boundaries, is only attainable if you back it up by sharing resources as well.

It's hardly a new observation that people sometimes stockpile resources around their business unit or department, or are slow -- perhaps even hesitant -- to share those resources with other departments. There might even be incentives in place that discourage sharing. For as long as companies have pursued profits, the size of one's organization has defined the size of one's financial opportunity. But are your resources truly applied as optimally as possible to your market opportunities in a way that best serves the total business? By unlocking these trapped resources, organizations can more quickly and successfully pursue emerging market opportunities.

Having a common approach to assess and communicate resource decisions is critical to creating a transparent environment among leaders. The more transparent the envi­ronment the more willing leaders will be to share resources in support of the shared goals of the entire business, and the harder it will be for resisters to hoard them. This shift in approach is not an easy one for leaders to make and requires a balancing act between clear expectations, patience and follow through. Ultimately, it's as much a mindset as it is a process. The fundamental enablers of collaborative leadership are viewing resources as instruments of action rather than as possessions and aligning your company's larger shared goals to an accountability system that includes rewards and incentives for working together effectively.

Codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards.

Modeling the desired collaborative behaviors -- showing your employees that you walk the talk -- is the goal. But what happens when you're not around? The more these behaviors are codified into an end-to-end system across your organization, the greater the odds of collaboration succeeding when you're not there to reinforce cultural norms. As you define the decision paths of your organization and build a common vocabulary to make those decision paths as transparent as possible, take the time to establish clear parameters. Who gets to make decisions? Are all decisions tied to funding? These are the types of questions to which everyone must know the answers. Publish the parameters for these decision rights and tell people which leaders have these rights -- that information is crucial to breaking through any consensus logjam; decision-rights holders should have 51 percent of the vote when collaborative teams can't reach natural agreement.

Having published decision rights is just one element of an accountability system. While it's never pleasant to talk about the consequences of poor decisions, the reality is that to succeed, collaboration demands more distributed and empowered actions across your organization. With that empowerment comes not only more good outcomes but also the increased potential for bad ones. You will need to consider new ways of gaining input from teams on the quality of collaborative decision making and reward people who consistently make good decisions in a collaborative environment.

As part of their overall performance management, every Cisco employee is measured by peers and their managers on their collaboration factor, the result of which directly impacts how their performance is rated and, ultimately, the size of their total compensation. Other factors that determine the size of bonuses are tied to how well employees collectively perform in achieving certain shared goals that Cisco establishes annually, such as customer-satisfaction metrics and financial results. Collaborative cultures not only foster teamwork, they also reward it. Performance measures must strike a balance between how well employees carry out their individual roles and how much they contribute to collective outcomes.

Legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski knows a thing or two about working together to reach shared goals. He reminds team members -- and business leaders -- that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back of the jersey.

Author Bios:
Ron Ricci, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, is the vice president of corporate positioning and has spent the last decade helping Cisco develop and nurture a culture of sharing and collaborative processes. In addition, he has spent countless hours with hundreds of different organizations discussing the impact of collaboration. He is also the co-author of the business best-seller Momentum: How Companies Become Unstoppable Market Forces (Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

Carl Wiese, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, is senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration sales -- a multi-billion global business. He has presented on the importance of collaboration to business audiences in dozens of countries, including Australia, China, Dubai, India, Mexico and all across Europe and the United States. With more than 25 years of sales, marketing, services and product-management experience with Cisco, Apple, Lucent, Avaya and Texas Instruments, Wiese has spent his career working with companies worldwide to advance their business goals with technology.
Thanks to Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese / Great Leadership By Dan / Dan McCarthy